“How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways”. Love has been the subject of many poems, books, movies, famous quotes and songs. Yes, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”. Love is a wonderful feeling that has several definitions according to who you ask, but when it turns to hurt and pain it loses all meaning I don’t claim to have all of the answers to love’s many mysteries but what I know for sure is, “Love shouldn’t hurt”.

Domestic violence is a subject that we as women should openly discuss and not hide it like some dirty little secret. Violence against women knows no age or race. It could be happening to your mother, your sister, aunt, cousin, niece or friend. Women in these situations often feel they are alone and trapped and don’t know where to turn for help.

One way to get help and to stop the continuation of physical and or verbal abuse is to talk to someone about it. It’s not your fault and you should carry no blame or shame. Let a close friend, family member or anyone you trust know what’s going on in your relationship. Don’t try to go it alone, that’s what the abuser wants you to do. That’s why he isolates you from your friends and family. Know that you cannot change an abusive personality. It takes a trained and well skilled professional to even attempt such a task. Your love is all you have to give and that is being thrown back in your face time and time again by your abuser.

Many survivors of domestic violence have made it their mission in life to help other women in similar situations by speaking out and telling their stories. One of the most important things a woman can do for herself and her children is to know what the signs of an abusive relationship are before they begin. Love shouldn’t hurt. Remember, believe what he does and not what he says. Your life may depend on it.

Know the signs

You may be experiencing domestic violence if you’re in a relationship with someone who:
• Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
• Prevents you from going to work or school
• Stops you from seeing family members or friends
• Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear
• Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
• Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
• Threatens you with violence or a weapon
• Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
• Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
• Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it

Protect your communication

An abuser may use technology to monitor your telephone and Internet communication and to track your physical location. To maintain your privacy and safety:
• Use cordless phones and cell phones cautiously. Your abuser may intercept calls and listen to your conversations. He or she may check your cell phone to see who has called or texted you. Your abuser also may check billing records to see your complete call history.
• Use your home computer cautiously. Your abuser may use spyware to monitor your e-mails and the Web sites you visit. Consider using a computer at work, the library or at a friend’s house to seek help.
• Frequently change your e-mail password. Choose a password that would be impossible for your abuser to guess.
• Clear your viewing history. Follow your browser’s instructions to clear any record of Web sites or graphics you’ve viewed.

Break the cycle

If you’re in an abusive situation, you may recognize this pattern:
• Your abuser threatens violence.
• Your abuser strikes.
• Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts.
• The cycle repeats itself.
Typically the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time.

Create a safety plan

Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Consider taking these steps:
• Call a women’s shelter or domestic violence hotline for advice. Make the call at a safe time — when the abuser is not around — or from a friend’s house or other safe location.
• Pack an emergency bag that includes items you’ll need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Hide it or leave the bag with a friend or neighbor. Keep important personal papers, money and prescription medications handy so that you can take them with you on short notice.
• Know exactly where you’ll go and how you’ll get there, even if you have to leave in the middle of the night.

Where to find help

In an emergency, call 911 — or your local emergency number or your local law enforcement agency. The following resources also can help:
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE or 800-799-7233. Call the hotline for crisis intervention and referrals to resources, such as women’s shelters.

• Your doctor. Doctors and nurses will treat injuries and may refer you to safe housing and other local resources.

• A local women’s shelter or crisis center. Shelters and crisis centers typically provide 24-hour emergency shelter, as well as advice on legal matters and advocacy and support services.

• A counseling or mental health center. Counseling and support groups for women in abusive relationships are available in most communities. Be wary of advice to seek couples or marriage counseling. If violence has escalated to the point that you’re afraid, counseling isn’t adequate.

• A local court. Your district court can help you obtain a restraining order that legally mandates the abuser to stay away from you or face arrest. Local advocates may be available to help guide you through the process.

Valerie Davis

Valerie Davis

Valerie Davis is an Award Winning Poet who discovered at an early age that writing was her true passion. St. Louis, Mo. is her hometown and where she avidly studied creative writing at the Creative Arts and Expression Laboratory (C.A.E.L.) with Shirley LeFlore.Valerie now resides in Tampa, FL. and is currently writing her first novel.

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